Martin and Kieran Byrne are twins. They are identical twins, who disclose their vintage to no one. Honda Goldwing motorcycles are their passion and they are frequent participants on The Run Of The Country. This year they surpassed themselves in entertainment value with jokes and stories. On arrival at our accommodation, the Longford Arms Hotel, there was a young mother with twins in a buggy. The big twins strolled over to the mother with the baby twins. They informed her that this is what the future beholds for her beloved twins. The humour of the moment was not lost and Bernie Moran had her phone at hand to take the opportunist photo.
On the subject of the Longford Arms hotel, the arrival of 37 shiny motorcycles to a country hotel causes a stir to say the least. Ooohhs and aahhs of the customers was heard all evening. In particular the remarks of two well groomed senior ladies were a joy as they harkened back to a time when they could throw a leg over a motorcycle. The wistful words of nostalgia of what might have been and what will not happen again were charming to overhear.
All along the route at the various checkpoints people would approach the bikers and ask what was going on. Motorcycles are a great conversation opener. Interesting thing too is the number of women who come and chat to the bikers. At one check point, Glynns Bar, Dunmore, Galway, a €50 note was thrust into my hand and a man said “you are doing great work for people with intellectual disabilities” and refused to give me his name. People are wonderful.
Being 16 is long past for me. I can’t imagine how wonderful The Run Of The Country must have been for Gerry Teeling. After purchasing a Honda 125 CG motorcycle 5 weeks prior to The Run Of The Country, he completed a 244 mile bike challenge through some of the trickiest, twisty and scenic roads in Ireland. Well fair play to him. A marvellous way to cut your teeth in motorcycling. Accompanied by his dad, Gerry Teeling Snr. and a group of 5 other bikers they all rode the route at their own steady pace. Steady is good. The Run Of The Country caters for all levels of bikers. Brisk and not so brisk riders, meander their way across this beautiful island in the name of charity. The only problem now for Gerry Teeling Jnr. is that all future motorcycle events will now be compared to The Run Of The Country, which is serious high standard.
Here is a good news story. The Run Of The Country Charity Motorbike Tour raised €11,557.00 for Malta Services Drogheda.
Before The Run Of The Country 2017 started, it was nearly over for three of the bikers. One flat wheel, one battery failure and one stalled bike. “Good, the flat wheel was only flat on the bottom” remarked one cheerful biker, much to the annoyance of the owner of the bike with the flat wheel. It was sorted out and away he went. Battery failure was cured by a new battery. Fortunately the bike failed 50 meters from a motor factor shop so the purchase of a battery was no issue. The stalled bike got started twice but failed three times. The unnamed rider had to use 4 wheels to get to the destination. Regardless of the lack of motorcycle it did not deter the enthusiasm for having a good laugh about it in Longford.
Malta Services is victim of the traffic management in Drogheda. This presented the first challenge to many of the motorcyclists who came from out of town and indeed some riders from the Drogheda. One local who shall remain anonymous took three passes of the gate in Duke St before a final touchdown in the yard. Leaving the premises turned out to be hazardous too. There was a near miss as a car nearly hit a biker as they left the yard.
David Clarke was one of the first participants to arrive in Malta Services at 8:15. He directed riders into the yard until breakfast was served and priorities were reassessed by him. After that he waited patiently for his ride on the Flying Pan. The thrills started in earnest for him at that point. He is a brilliant pillion passenger and enjoys the motorcycling experience to the full.
The weather was fine, the registration seamless and the breakfast was a full Irish, with hot tea & toast. Volunteers and staff from Malta Services were toiling over hot stoves from 7am to prepare the delicious rashers, sausages and pudding supplied by Tuite’s Butchers. Not a vegan in sight. What a way to start the day! As events unfolded, there were three no shows but this was compensated for by three bikers who hadn’t told us they were coming. So the account balanced.
Clonard, Co. Meath was the first check point. It was manned by Mark Tobin. The problem with this detail was that there was a delay in getting the last few bikers on the road so Mark had to hang around until everyone turned up. He was so happy to see us that he took the road to Mullingar out of Kinnegad instead of the Galway Road.
Unfortunately due to an unforeseen medical incident Elaine Leavy, our only female rider, had to retire early from the journey on Saturday morning. Thanks to Joe Swords and his daughter Emma who were riding with Elaine, for getting her back safely to the hotel. This was fortunate for some as one or two may get a little indignant when overtaken by a girl. It appears that Elaine has a heart, dispelling any rumours to the contrary. Elaine has been a great supporter of The Run Of The Country for years now and was very disappointed to have missed the tour. We enjoyed her company at dinner later in the evening.
Kilcormack was the second checkpoint and some of the riders decided to head up the Motorway to Kilbeggan and then head south to Tullamore. Others took the suggested route to Edenderry and enjoyed a twisty biking treat. Matt Quinn manned this check point and came from Portroe, Co. Tipperary to do this chore. He joined the rest of the riders for the run to Longford.
My favourite part of the route was next. From Riverstown near Birr to Gort crossing the Shannon and the Slieve Aughty mountains was a superb biking road. Scenery, greenery, rivers, boats, heather and very little traffic. Felix McArdle was the steward of the check point in Gort. Felix is a belt and braces man and to make sure no one cheated he recorded the cards that were chosen twice. Once on the riders record sheet and also on the checkpoint rider list. There is no scope for sculduggery on this ride.
East Galway doesn’t show up on many people’s radar. For The Run Of The Country it was a completely different matter. Loughrea, New Inn and Mountbellew Bridge on to Dunmore is a great balance of dry stone walled roads and cool tarmac. Motorcycling these country roads is driving in hyper reality. Every sense, muscle and sinew is wholly directed on the job at hand. Absolute biking pleasure. Claire Byrne from CEO Malta Services Drogheda manned this check point and met all the bikers with her daughter Roisín who did a great job with the poker run cards and check list.
The final spin into Longford was a relaxed cruise to base camp where a hot shower and soft bed awaited everyone. Last to arrive at the destination landed at 7pm. It’s a long day in the saddle of a motorbike. Sore butts, stiff knees and painful wrists are without doubt the result of six hours on two wheels. Biking Irish country roads can be tough going on a long 244 mile journey. Everyone arrived safe and sound thank goodness.
All riders & pillions assembled for dinner at 8:30 and they were hungry. Peter Tormey had taken a number of photos and video clips and these were projected onto a big screen for everyone’s delight. Claire Byrne made a powerpoint presentation showing how service users enjoyed the €7250 proceeds from last year’s run were spent. All funds were used directly on the service users to achieve personal goals and it proved that The Run Of The Country Charity Motorbike Tour makes a real difference to people’s lives.
Flying Pan had a wonderful team of helpers who ensured the event looked like it was under control even though under the bonnet it was the engine was hitting the red line on occasion and the rev limiter touched once or twice. Thanks to Audrey Jackson for keeping the show running smoothly. Indeed she was ably assisted by Megan McCormick who put all matters in perspective. The women in my family are a wonder. They can go anywhere and still find a boutique or shoe shop to leave a contribution to the local economy.
A Poker Run game is an essential part of the Run Of The Country. It is sponsored generously by Height For Hire and Kennedy Motorcycles. Jimmy Kennedy adjudicated the competition and awarded the prizes on the night.
The Poker Run prizes were awarded as follows:
3 Kings were first prize won by Kenneth Smith – RST Biker Gear value €550
3 tens were second prize won by Shane Jones – Motorcycle tyres value €250
2 pairs were third prize won by Mark Churchill – Knox biker gloves value €175
20 spot prizes were handed out ranging from a Newbridge Silver Gents Watch to a bottle of Green Chartreuse.
What an event!
Thanks to all the riders and pillions who scrounged and harassed their friends neighbours and colleagues to raise the sponsorship.
Special thanks to Joe Swords and Brian O’Reilly who extracted corporate sponsorship from their clients and associates. This made a material difference to the amount of sponsorship raised by the event.
In particular thanks to our main sponsors Height For Hire, Kennedy Motorcycles and Tuite Butchers.